Your Siem Reap bucket list: what to do in temple town
The majestic temples of the Angkor Wat complex are what pull in most visitors to Siem Reap – but we all know there’s plenty more to see, do, eat and experience in Cambodia’s famous temple town!
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To help you make the most of your time with us, we’ve compiled this ultimate bucket list of activities to check off during your stay in Siem Reap. How many of these activities have you already done, and when will you be taking in the rest?
1. Catch sunrise or sunset at the famous temples
There’s do denying the awe-inspiring beauty of Siem Reap’s Angkor-era temples, and they’re all the more special viewed through the lens of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. At Baby Elephant, we can hook you up with trusted drivers and guides to make your visit to Angkor Wat truly memorable.
2. Take a day tour with Ayana Journeys
We love likeminded, responsible travel companies like Ayana Journeys – and even better, their day trips are the business! Pick one of their numerous itineraries – tours cover everything from food and temples to local rural and urban lifestyles – and get real insight into a side of Siem Reap most visitors simply don’t see.
3. Stroll through trendy, ethical Kandal Village
If we have a favourite corner of Siem Reap, it’s probably Kandal Village. Tucked away in the city’s French quarter, just a short hop from the Old Market, this ordinary-looking street-and-a-bit is hemmed in and around Hup Guan Street and boasts coffee shops, galleries, innovative boutiques, a spa – and even a hair salon! It’s the perfect spot to spend a few hours shopping for souvenirs, people-watching, and simply soaking up the vibe.
4. Stop for a coffee
Speaking of coffee shops, Siem Reap has a thriving café scene, both in and away from Kandal Village. Our little city has award-winning baristas competing in national championships, enough cosy and trendily designed coffee hideaways to keep you high on caffeine for your entire trip, and a pride in its coffee, food and community that many much larger destinations can only aspire to. For more inspiration, take a look at our round-up of Siem Reap’s best cafés.
5. Cruise the slow boat to Battambang
When you’ve finally ticked off all these other bucket list items and the time comes around for you to leave Siem Reap, do it in style! The boat may not be the fastest or even the most comfortable way to get to Battambang (if that’s your ticket, we can sort you out with bus tickets, too!), but it’s sure the most memorable! Sit back and watch the countryside scenery pass you by as you float up the Sangker River, and then get ready for more adrenaline-fuelled action in Battambang itself – did someone say bamboo train!?
6. Ride a helicopter or hot air balloon over Angkor Wat
If there’s one way to make the most of your time at Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, it’s to max out the views and take to the skies in either a helicopter or a hot air balloon. A helicopter ride offers all the thrill you would expect, while heading up in a hot air balloon generally affords you a smoother ride and makes it easier to take your snaps of the temples below. Either way, we can set you up with the experience of a lifetime.
7. Feast on Siem Reap’s street food scene
Cambodia’s street food may be less recognised internationally than that of neighbouring Thailand or Vietnam, but that’s not to say it’s not worth exploring. Alleys across the city are laden with delicious local specialities for you to tuck into – within only a minute or two on foot from Baby Elephant’s front door, you’ll find the likes of noodle soups and curry-laden rice noodles, while just slightly further afield you can expect to tuck into fresh spring rolls and more. Our team are happy to make recommendations as to where you might tuck into some truly local fare, or we can help arrange a street food tour to help foodies really make the most of their time in Siem Reap.
8. Indulge in high-end modern Cambodian cuisine
Siem Reap’s high-end dining scene is in its prime, and numerous restaurants let you explore the intricacies of Cambodian and Khmer cuisine. Two of our favourites are Malis, which serves up fabulous renditions of classic Cambodian dishes like beef saraman curry in regal surroundings, and French-run Cuisine Wat Damnak. At the latter, chef Joannès Rivière puts on a fortnightly changing tasting menu of innovative dishes that highlight unique, authentically Cambodian flavours and French culinary techniques.
9. Be wowed at the circus
A trip to the circus might not be the first thing on your mind when you book a holiday in Siem Reap, but believe us when we say it’s a decision you won’t regret. Phare the Cambodian Circus is a responsibly managed social enterprise that runs nightly circus performances just outside the city centre – combining dance, theatre, live music and acrobatics to tell traditional and modern Cambodian tales. The circus’ work supports a school and professional arts training centre in Battambang, as well as providing opportunities for its performers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Oh, and their shows are truly amazing – with some of the performances almost guaranteed to make you well up!
10. Find your inner yogi
Yoga is booming in Siem Reap – whether you’re already a yogi or you’re looking to get into it for the first time, in between visits to Angkor Wat is the perfect time to squeeze in some practice. We have regular yoga classes right here at Baby Elephant, run by travelling and resident instructors with extensive experience – plus countless other fitness sessions, art classes and more, all enabling you to keep in shape and indulge your creative side too.
11. Let your hair down on Pub Street – or elsewhere
Pub Street in Siem Reap rightly has a reputation as a raucous destination for a night out – and, with beer and cocktails just about as cheap as water, if that’s what you’re in the mood for then it’s unlikely to disappoint. That said, it’s from all Siem Reap has to offer in the way of nightlife – our little city has all manner of bars to suit different tastes, and we’ve highlighted a few of our favourites here. Failing that, call us biased, but we reckon there are far worse ways to let your hair down than with a draught beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail while sat beside our gorgeous saltwater pool.
12. See Siem Reap from the back of a tuk-tuk
There’s perhaps no better way to see Siem Reap – and navigate its often chaotic traffic – than from the back of a tuk-tuk. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as one of our trusted drivers takes you for a whirl around the city, whether you have a destination in mind or are just along for the journey.
13. Get lost!
Seriously. Siem Reap is a maze of little lanes (the one that’s home to Baby Elephant is particularly gorgeous), and the beauty is that you never quite know what might be lurking down the next one. If you really want a memorable experience, our advice is to take a wander without having any particular destination in mind – you might be surprised where you end up.
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Looking for a Siem Reap hotel at which to base yourself while you knock off every item from your Siem Reap bucket list? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.
What’s your must-do in Siem Reap? Let us know in the comments!
Angkor Wat sunrise photo by dia_n; Siem Reap alley photo by Ilana Tulloch; yoga photo for Baby Elephant; all other photos by Chris Wotton.